Chicken pie is one of my ultimate comfort foods. Probably because my gran made a killer chicken pie and always had an enormous one standing proudly amongst the roasts and delicious vegetable dishes for our Sunday lunches.
My gran’s chicken pie was always something rather majestic. She made sure the edges were beautifully crimped but ensured me she did so in a casual manner; the filling was always rich and fragrant with hints of nutmeg, cloves and white pepper. I also loved how she wasn’t shy with the filling and made sure that there wasn’t a ton of pastry compared to the amount of filling. I’m a pastry lover but I hate cutting into a pie only to find it contains barely any meat. On that note, there are two options when it comes to how much pastry you need for your pie. If you want a ‘pot-pie’ style pie, you only need a ‘lid’ of sorts to cover the filling. If you want an ‘encased’ pie, you need to line the baking dish with pastry as well as top it with a ‘lid’. The latter will need two rolls (about 400g (14.11 ounces) each) of ready-made puff pastry.
For this Chicken & Chorizo pie I wanted a filling that packed serious flavour and wanted the chicken to be moist and tender. I used skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks and poached them with bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, lemon peel and onions until the meat was falling from the bone. Not only does this give great depth of flavour to the chicken, but it also leaves me with a batch of home-made chicken stock.
When the chicken is cooked, I remove the meat from the bones when the chicken has cooled down slightly. I mix this with sauteed onion, garlic and chorizo, ground cloves, nutmeg and white pepper and coarse sea salt before pouring in some cream and a few tablespoons of flour. This helps to thicken the sauce and leaves you with a delicious almost-gravy which keeps everything moist. It really couldn’t be simpler yet everytime I make a chicken pie my guests fall over themselves to get to it first.
to poach the chicken
1.5kg (3.31 pounds) skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 red onion, halved
2 bay leaves
1 piece of lemon peel
for the chicken filling
100g (3.53 ounces) chorizo sausage, cubed
2 red onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 tsp salt
150ml (5.07 fluid ounces) cream
150ml (5.07 fluid ounces) chicken stock (I use the stock that the chicken was poached in)
3-4 tbsp flour
to make the pie
1-2 rolls, ready-made puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten
- To poach the chicken, combine all the ingredients in a large pot and add two litres of water. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Allow to simmer for an hour to an hour and a half until the liquid has turned golden brown and the chicken is falling from the bone.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the stock and strain the stock into a jug and set aside.
- While allowing the chicken to cool, fry the chorizo in a large saute pan until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan (the chorizo would’ve released a lot of oils, I like to fry the onions in it), fry the onions and garlic until soft and translucent.
- Shred the chicken into a large bowl and add the chorizo and fried onion and garlic. Add the spices and seasoning (start with 1 tsp of salt), the cream, chicken stock and flour. Mix well until everything is well combined and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease an oven-proof dish large enough to hold the pie.
- If you want an encased pie, line the bottom of the greased dish with pastry, if not, leave bare. Tip in the chicken filling. Brush the edges of the bottom layer of pastry (or the pie dish), with beaten egg yolk and top with a layer of pastry. Crimp the edges of the pastry and decorate the top as you please.
- Place the pie in the oven and allow to bake for 30-45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the pie from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.